Two Strawsonian strategies for accounting for morally responsible agency
It is common for theorists, drawing on P. F. Strawson, to account for morally responsible agency in terms of the nature of the emotions and feelings that characterize our responsibility practices, in terms of the nature of the so-called “reactive attitudes.” Here, I argue against this attitude-based Strawsonian strategy, and I argue in favor of an alternative, which I call the “concern-based Strawsonian strategy.” On this alternative, rather than account for morally responsible agency in terms of the nature of the reactive attitudes, one accounts for such agency in terms of the concern that leaves us susceptible to those attitudes in the first place. This, I believe, is a more promising way to develop the Strawsonian approach than the attitude-based strategy. The concern-based strategy allows us to better countenance the number and variety of the reactive attitudes that characterize our responsibility practices; it shares the attitude-based strategy’s virtues; and it seems to position us to better understand the distinctive social and moral significance associated with being and being regarded as a morally responsible agent.
KeywordsP. F. Strawson Responsibility Moral psychology Free will Agency Reactive attitudes
I’ve benefited from discussions with and feedback from a great many people. Many thanks to friends and colleagues at UC, Riverside, especially Zachary Bachman, Taylor Cyr, Andrew Law, Meredith McFadden, Jonah Nagashima, and Andy Reath. I would also like to thank a reviewer for Philosophical Studies, who offered very helpful comments on an earlier draft. And finally, I owe a special debt of gratitude to John Martin Fischer, Agnieszka Jaworska, Coleen Macnamara, Dana Nelkin, and Monique Wonderly, for their encouragement and in-depth feedback on multiple drafts.
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